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SHAH ABBAS THE GREAT           265
Cotton, to whom we shall return in the next chapter.
Nakd Ali Khan, who sailed in the same fleet, but was not
allowed to land at the same time as Sherley, poisoned
himself on the voyage to India.
An allusion to the pensions granted to the Sherleys,
who were among the greatest travellers of the age, is
probably to be found in Twelfth Night? where Fabian
says, " I will not give my part of this sport for a pension
of thousands to be paid from the Sophy." .
The Administrative Genius of Shah Abbas.—The fame
of Shah Abbas does not rest on his military exploits alone :
it is also founded on his genius for administration and
especially upon the thoroughness with which he took in
hand the improvement of communications throughout the
Empire. He built caravanserais and bridges in such
numbers that every ancient work is now credited to him.
Even in muddy Gilan and Mazanderan his famous Sang
Farshy or "Stone Carpet," a causeway which traverses
the Caspian provinces from east to west, is still used,
although to judge from what I saw of it near Astrabad
it badly needs repair.
The most striking act of his administration was the
selection of Isfahan as his capital. There, in the centre
of the Empire, on almost the only river of the plateau,
a splendid new city grew up, approached by beautiful
double avenues of oriental planes and stately bridges,
which prepared travellers for the superb buildings that
are still preserved to us. Thanks to the number of these
travellers, many of whom wrote books, the splendours
of the Safavi" dynasty have been described more fully than
any other phase of Persian history. To quote Lord
Curzon, " Pietro della Valle, Herbert, Olearius, Tavernier,
Chardin, Sanson, Daulier-Deslandes, Kaempfer, and Le
Brun successively shed the light of an acute and instructed
scrutiny upon the scene, and have added to the respective
literatures of Italy, Great Britain, Germany, France, and
The Great Shah realized the harm of fanaticism and
1  This play was written in 1601-2, by which date news would have reached England
of the splendid reception of the English knights by Shah Abbas.
2  Op. at. vol. ii. p. zz.